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Winners and Losers of the NBA Draft

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With the NBA Draft taking place last night, several teams came out looking very different.

NBA: NBA Draft Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

After months of projections and mock drafts, the NBA Draft is now in the rearview mirror. No major moves were made during the draft, but the landscape of the league was still affected with 60 new players now joining the professional level. Some teams made great moves, while others had many scratching their heads, and in the end, there were some clear winners and losers. Because of the amount the Sixers’ draft will be broken down in the coming days, they will not be added to either list, but many know exactly where they would land had they been given a grade.

Winners

Boston Celtics: This one hurts to say, but once again the Boston Celtics left the draft with an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. With the 14th pick in the first round, they decided to grab a player with tons of upside in Indiana guard Romeo Langford. With all of the questions surrounding Kyrie Irving and the growing sense he will leave in free agency, the Celtics were able to acquire another talented guard who can replace some of the production on offense that Irving’s departure leaves.

Later in the round, the Celtics were able to swing a deal with the Philadelphia 76ers to move down in the draft, trading the 20th pick in return for the 24th and 33rd picks. The Sixers had keyed in on Washington wing Matisse Thybulle and the Celtics were able to take advantage of that information and obtain another valuable pick by moving down. The Celtics ended up trading the first pick (24th overall) they received from the Sixers to the Phoenix Suns in return for a future first rounder and selected Tennessee star Grant Williams with their own pick at 22nd overall. Williams was someone who many believe is the consummate pro who will be able to fill many roles for the team.

In the second round, the Celtics were able to steal Purdue point guard Carsen Edwards away from the Sixers (who had looked like the perfect fit) with the pick they acquired (33rd overall) from them, and later on selected LSU point guard Tremont Waters with the 51st pick. A guard-heavy draft class from Boston saw them take a combination of stability and upside and leave the draft as one of the biggest winners.

Memphis Grizzlies: The Grizzlies were one of the biggest winners prior to the draft even starting. By moving up into the second pick via the lottery, they were able to keep their pick due to protections in a trade with the Boston Celtics and found their point guard of the future. Ja Morant was the easy selection with the second pick, and earlier in the day, the team found a way to free up a starting spot for him by sending longtime starting point guard Mike Conley to the Utah Jazz for a package headlined by the 23rd overall pick.

With several players falling down draft boards, the Grizzlies decided to move up and take Gonzaga power forward Brandon Clarke with the 21st pick after a trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder. In the trade, all the Grizzlies gave up were the 23rd overall pick and a 2024 second-round pick, not much for a player projected to be a lottery pick heading into the draft. With no second round picks, the Grizzlies’ draft class of Morant and Clarke is still one of the best of the night and makes them an easy choice to be one of the winners of the draft.

Minnesota Timberwolves: A team with many question marks heading into the draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves made the most of their few picks. In a trade just prior to the start of the draft, Minnesota traded up, acquiring the 6th pick from the Phoenix Suns in return for the 11th pick and former Sixers great Dario Saric. Acquired in the Jimmy Butler deal this past season, Saric never felt like a fit with the Timberwolves and was often relegated to sporadic bench minutes with the team.

Using a player who didn't fit on the team in order to move up to the top of the draft was great work by the Timberwolves’ front office, and they then proceeded to nail their pick by taking Texas Tech wing Jarrett Culver. Minnesota is still in need of a point guard, and while Culver isn't a traditional lead guard, he can help out running the offense. One of my favorite prospects in the class, Culver will be able to come in and immediately give the Timberwolves a spark on offense and defense next to Robert Covington.

In the second round, they added Washington shooting guard Jaylen Nowell, a player that shot 3-pointers well in his collegiate career, but still has some things that need to be ironed out. Nowell is the type of player the Timberwolves hope they can coach up and eventually add to the rotation, which could be a good bet to happen. Adding two wings who have high upside, while not giving up much to move up to grab one of the best prospects in the draft has the Timberwolves looking like winners.

Losers

Phoenix Suns: The Phoenix Suns have been making questionable moves for years now, and that didn’t stop at this year’s draft. Things got started before the first pick was announced, as Phoenix shipped TJ Warren off to the Indiana Pacers along with the 32nd pick just to get out from under his contract. With so many prospects that were thought to be first-round picks falling into the second, the Suns could have used that pick to grab another young player with potential.

Once the draft started, the wheels fell off. The Suns traded back in the first round, grabbing the 11th pick and Dario Saric from the Timberwolves for the 6th pick. The Suns desperately needed a point guard to pair with Devin Booker and traded right out of prime position to draft one, instead reaching for small forward Cameron Johnson, someone who everyone thought would be available much later in the first round.

Later on in the night, the team decided to trade back into the first round, sending a future Milwaukee Bucks first-round pick to the Boston Celtics for the 24th pick, where they selected the point guard they needed in Ty Jerome. The Suns gave up on the possibility to draft a potential elite guard like Jarrett Culver or Coby White to take two players who were fringe first rounders, not the ideal night for Suns fans.

Washington Wizards: One of the teams seemingly on their way down due to massive contracts to players not deserving of them, the Washington Wizards had a tough night. Picking ninth overall in the first round, they decided to go with Gonzaga forward Rui Hachimura, a player with legitimate offensive questions. Hachimura has upside, but drafting him ninth overall knowing that his offensive game isn’t NBA ready in the slightest is highly concerning if you're a Wizards fan. The Wizards were able to draft Tennessee star Admiral Schofield with a second-round pick acquired from the Philadelphia 76ers, but that pick will continue to be overshadowed by the confusing Hachimura pick.

Oklahoma City Thunder: The Thunder are trying to create more cap space by shedding several of their big contracts, that has been known for several days. They were willing to add their first-round pick to trades in order to move those contracts, and yet on draft night, the team was still in possession of those ugly contracts and their pick. It seemed like the Thunder could have been targeting Matisse Thybulle, a perfect prospect for the team, but when the Sixers jumped them and selected the talented wing, the Thunder decided to move back.

Sending their pick to the Memphis Grizzlies, Oklahoma City acquired the 23rd overall pick and a 2024 second rounder, not much even if it were only for the chance to move up a few spots. Darius Bazley was taken at 23rd overall, and while he has the upside to grow into a difference maker, it’s going to take quite some time. Bazley is a giant question mark, but if the Thunder are willing to be patient with him, then more power to them. But as a team in the midst of contention in the Western Conference, they could have taken one of several other prospects ready to come in and help right now.